Flower-a-Day, Week 3

At the beginning of the third week, my friend KRin brought over a rose from a bush given to her to commemorate her late husband. It had an amazing scent of cinnamon, and was a lovely matte orange.

She wanted to watch me paint. Unfortunately, I do find it hard to talk and paint at the same time, and tend to ramble inanely when I do.

As I said in the last post about these paintings, I’m struggling with defining edges and depth. In dim light with a matt single-colour flower it’s hard to see much definition. Though the camera captured the shadows more easily than my eyes perceived them. And I suspect I was at the edge of the capacity of the paint set, too. I eventually outlined the rose with black paint applied with a paintbrush.

A few days before, an order for some Winsor & Newton designer gouaches arrived and I was keen to try them. Especially as I hoped they’d give me the subtle but effective range needed to show depth. Working with a photo of a flower that had the same kind of matte (mostly), single-colour petals, I took my time and I’m pretty happy with the result.

The next day I sat outside and attempted to portray this convolvulus flower. I wasn’t happy with it until I deepened the shadows with black later.

I tried the purple variety the next day from a phone pic.

While it’s very rough, I do feel like I captured the light.

The next day I headed to the native garden. The flower I picked is tiny, and when I found I wasn’t getting much subtlety I decided to approach it as if it were a printed fabric design using only three colours.

I tried the same approach the next day, but the result wasn’t as satisfactory, though perhaps I’d like it better as a fabric design if it the flowers and leaves were more densely packed.

Same area and also a native, but this time only using pencil.

Looking back, I created the best and worst flower art in this week. That tree peony turned out so much better than I expected, using a medium I’m not overly familiar with. But the chocolate lilies disappointed me.

Flower-A-Day, Week 2

On day 8 I tackled another rose, this time using watercolour pencils blended with a little water. I’m not as happy with this one. The rose petals had a pink line around the edges, but in the painting this just looks like a pencil outline.

The following day it was wet, so I painted clivias from the shelter of the desk. I started with the intention of using only paint, but couldn’t get enough nuance from the brigh, saturated colour so delineate the edges, so I resorted to pen, which looks great.

Another day of unappealing weather so I went through my phone pics searching for flowers, and hit upon photos of grass tree flowers on Flinder Island. I enjoyed doing something different. A pale yellow silhouette of the plans went on first, then some green and grey, then I switched to watercolour pencils for the texture, then switched back and forth to get the darks and background. If I’d painted this for a travel diary I’d have been very pleased.

Another photo reference, of the native pigface that grows on the embankment next to the pool. There is no black in the background in real life, but I liked the contrast and drama it created.

On day twelve I drew the flower that identified the Dietes plant that had sprung up among the Dianellas, before getting Paul to dig it out.

Only lucky day thirteen I painted this magnificent rose I’d spotted the day before. It has the most divine scent, despite the unromantic name of ‘stainless steel’.

On day fourteen I popped outside to paint an azalea. The sunlight was quite hot though the day itself wasn’t particularly warm. Unfortuantely, I don’t have the label for this one.

I didn’t use the watercolour pencil until the end, when I added some texture by working into wet paint.

I’m learning something with every flower, whether by making mistakes or trying something new in approach or medium. Portraying depth and defining edges are proving a challenge, but at least I’m getting the flower in the middle of the page now!

Flower-A-Day, Week 1

The sketchbook. Teeny weeny.

For the first flower, I went out into the garden looking for something relatively simple to start with. And accessible. Most of our flowering plants are on a steep embankment, but I found this little nasturtium had sprouted behind a low retaining wall where most of my lavenders died.

I learned two things from this: first to consider carefully if the picture needed a background, second that sometimes you can’t mix a colour and need to add a new pigment to your set. In this case, I brought out the Stuart Semple palette, which had an orange bright enough for the flower. From then on it was my first choice when I wanted to use paint.

Next, the red hot poker had one last flower on it, so I decided to do that before the opportunity passed.

Much happier with this one. I realised that at eye level the tubular flowers rarely come straight at me, but up and down.

Next, I was going to paint bright yellow flowers on one of the natives, but they were already past their prime and their position on the embankment was not going to make for comfortable painting. Instead, I headed for the Unexpected Succulent Garden, which has been looking amazing recently.

I hadn’t intended to add the leaves, but got inspired. But adding them put the picture off balance on the page.

Soon after I started the next one, I went and got a seat. I thought I’d be able to sit on a rock, but I was wrooooong. I got myself a stool.

It really needed a green background to contrast with the red flowers. The paints weren’t getting me the feel of the subtly striped petals, so I ducked inside and got some watercolour pencils.

I’d be happier with this if I’d managed to centre the flowers on the page. I had to look up the name of the succulent and this one, and I was amused to find this one was an African Daisy. A couple of years ago I went looking for African Daisies for the front garden, not realising I already had them in the kitchen garden.

The next day was really cold, so I turned to my iPhone’s photo albums. And I finally managed to get a flower centred.

Again, watercolour pencils made adding texture much easier.

This plant isn’t in flower at the moment. It’s in the giant tongue-like leaves stage. They’ll die off and the plant will all but disappear until the flowers emerge from the ground next autumn, first with bright buds like giant parrot beaks, then opening to make these alien-like flowers.

The following day was lovely for flower painting.

The label stuck into my gardening diary told me this was a Dianthus. It didn’t mention that Dianthus are ‘pinks’, which it turns out is another name for carnations. Now I understand why on gardening shows presenters would sometimes gesture to a bed of not-pink flowers and call them pink.

Turns out the colour pink is named after the flowers, not the other way around. And pinking shears are named after the shape of the petal ends.

This one was quite the research black hole.

The seventh flower was a rose. One of my climbers.

No paint this time, just watercolour pencils without water. It suited the densely packed petals.

Overall, I found that I was always better off trying to painting what I saw, including flaws, rather than ‘fix’ anything or try to ‘just paint the gist of it’. Taking photos and looking at the thumbnails helped to reveal overall flaws too, and a friend’s honest assessment that the carnation looked a bit flat helped me fix the problem.

The painting have taken between 20 mins and an hour and a half. I’m sure I’ll get faster, or at least better at choosing quick subjects when I’m short on time. Though it is nice to spend more time as well when I have it.

The 7 Day Urban Sketching @ Home Challenge

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been watching lots of fast motion videos of artists working and talking about their methods, and one I stumbled on was a young woman, Taria, who runs the Urban Sketching World website. She had done a series of videos of herself sketching at home during lockdown earlier this year, presenting them as an artistic challenge for others to try.

Having decided I should do some art around the house, this seemed as good a place to start as any. I have a sketchbook I draw and paint in when I go on day trips or weekend away, which I had nearly filled, so this could be a way to finish it off, too. It turned out to have five pages left, so this challenge would not only complete it, but get me started on a new sketchbook.

The first day’s theme is ‘art supplies’. Always fun and easy to depict:

The second day’s is ‘something from the cupboard’. I chose the shelves in the door of our TARDIS liquor cabinet:

The third theme is ‘plants’. I live on an acre with more than half of it garden, from native to vegetable beds. Spoilt for choice there, you’d think. Only it was freezing outside so I brought in this little pot:

Theme number four is ‘modes of transport’. I’m always up for drawing my Mini, and I was fortunate that it was a sunny day:

The fifth theme was ‘the room’. I thought this one would be difficult, so I was thinking about it ahead of time. I settled on the corner of the kitchen:

Day six’s theme is people. Lockdown meant my subjects were limited to me and Paul, but then I remembered that people like to walk along our street and drawing people quickly is an interesting challenge. However, in 1 1/2 hours only four people passed, and one of those I spotted too late. So I started sketching Paul, then realised I didn’t have enough space so abandoned that and drew his head.

For the seventh day we could draw anything. It was a dim, overcast day and it was hard to make out the cat on his bed under my desk, so I went for something brighter:

It’s been fun most days and a great way to reacquaint myself with my sketching tools. It finished off my old sketchbook with a ‘bang’.

I’ve been considering whether I’ll do Inktober, but I’m not sure about the prompts. Another idea is to paint the same subject a day for a set time. A friend is doing horses for a year and is still at it seven months later – and she says it’s worth doing even if she’s totally over drawing horses! Trouble is, there’s a good reason I called this blog ‘creative fidget’. I tend to cycle through my interests so I don’t get tired of any. Daily drawing might not be my thing. Still, I am intrigued by the idea of regularly drawing or painting flowers. The subject has never attracted me in the past, but I really enjoyed painting the spring blossoms. I can do some from photos and some from life, and play with different mediums.

A Dior to Another World

I awaited Kathleen’s visit with anticipation not just to see my friend, but because we planned to do some sketching. Last time she visited we went to the 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition at the NGV. This time we headed to The House of Dior.

The previous time I was impressed with myself for getting five sketches done. This time I did nine!


The classic Dior ensemble. It was at the start, when I hadn’t really warmed up yet.


Watercolour added later. You can’t bring paints into these things!


Hat’s too big, though it was an overly large hat for the model. Was going to add a second figure next to her.


Surprisingly goth for a Dior gown.


I started drawing the goth gown but realised I’d started too bit and began again. Managed to cover the first marks with this one, which I really like.


Dotty dress! My favourite of the show. Borrowed Kathleen’s red marker for the dots


A very red, lush dress. Red added later.


This was a brightly coloured dress that I was going to colour using a photo as reference, but I didn’t get around to it.


Accessories!

Sketching at the NGV

A few Thursdays ago a friend from Brisbane, Kathleen, was in town. She’s an artist and writer, and does the most adorable drawings wherever she goes, so I proposed an afternoon of sketching at the NGV’s 200 Years of Fashion exhibition. We met at Senior’s Art Supplies, where I bought some Copic markers.

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Then we headed to the gallery. I stuck to black ink for this one:

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The rest of my sketches I coloured later from memory, my photos and pics of the exhibition on Google Images. This one wasn’t so successful – should have chosen a better viewpoint than front on:

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I love this:

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The next one was a colour challenge, with the limited number of markers I had:

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We were there until closing, and I did this with four minutes to spare, finishing it from memory as the guards herded us out:

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Later I couldn’t find a picture online for the colours. It was only a week or so ago that a photo finally appeared.

I’ve never produced so many sketches in such a short time! It was fun having a sketching buddy for the afternoon, and it was a great way to experience the exhibition. I’d like to go back to see it again, and perhaps draw some more.

Recent Sketches

A couple of drawings from our recent trip to Lake Hume. Both lunchtime sketches. The first done on the way up, the second of Tallangatta’s main street during our drive around the lake.

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I didn’t bother colouring them – sometimes they come out okay enough to leave as they are.

Craft Day

From time to time a bunch of my crafty friends get together for a Craft/Quilt Day. It’s as much about having a girly get-together (away from the kids) as it is about being creative, and there is always a little hilarity among the general nattering. Fellow bloggers included Margaret, Beky and Karen.

On Saturday I played host. There was some sewing of dresses, dog coats and quilts, some stamping papercraft, and some crochet. Though many WIPs called, I used the afternoon for more portraiture practise.

My warm up sketch was not so great, but I was pretty pleased with these three portraits:

(The paper is blue in the second one, not white in bluish light.)

I’d planned to do some really quick sketches while people worked, then get them to pose for me, but I found that it took longer to draw someone when they were doing something because they’d shift position and I’d have to wait until they returned to where they were or work out how to compensate. So the sketches took longer – but why interrupt anyone when the drawings were coming out better than I expected anyway?

The classes proved most valuable in that I could fall back on methods and mediums that I was familiar with and concentrate on the new challenge of sketching friends. What I found most reassuring was that my friends didn’t seem to mind being drawn. I was able to spare enough attention to chat a little at the same time – which will be good if it’s just me and the subject in the future.

I’m hoping to start arranging with friends to do sittings next year, and start working in oils. I haven’t yet worked out whether I’ll keep going to life drawing classes as well, either for portraiture practise or to return to drawing figures. I’ll see what my teacher recommends.

Phil-ing In for a Model

Phillip Tophead’s modelling career began a month or two ago:

I put him within sight of my tv-watching armchair, with sketchbook and oil pastels close by. Not quite the perfect substitute for knitting as I can really only listen to the tv at the same time, but now and then Paul will be watching something I’ve seen before, aren’t so interested in, or wants to read instead.

As my teacher says, you don’t get good at something doing it once a week. I wasn’t feeling the love for drawing in pencil, and charcoal or pastel creates too much dust and mess. It was actually research I was doing for my current book that sparked the idea of trying oil pastels. No dust, and it’s closer to what I’m doing in class.

But drawing a skull over and over could get a bit tedious, so I’ve swapped Phil for a head I bought to pose knitted hats on. Hmm. I should name her, too. Maybe Ms Anna Quin?

On the Face of It

Portraiture classes are going well. I feel that wonderful, slightly frustrating but ultimately rewarding sensation of change and growth that comes with learning. For the first six months I stuck to monochromatic neutral black and browns. After the mid-year break I found myself naturally starting to move into colour.

I’m hoping that by next year I’ll be ready to pick up a brush, dust off come canvasses and talk some friends into posing for me.